Playing its fifth straight road game in front of a sell-out crowd, Butler held off George Washington 59-56 on Saturday in Atlantic 10 Conference men's basketball action, and as the score indicates, it was far from easy.
George Washington (11-11, 5-4), hosting its annual Homecoming weekend, packed the gym with a standing-room only crowd of 4,488. However, for most of the day, it appeared Butler would be the one celebrating as the Bulldogs built a 48-31 with 12:02 left in the game.
The Colonials mounted a comeback, keyed by pressure defense and physical play. A lay-up by junior Erik Fromm at the 7:34 mark gave BU a 53-38 lead, but it would be Butler's last field goal of the afternoon. The Colonials made steals and crashed the offensive rebounds to go on an 18-4 run over a 6:50 span to shrink Butler's lead to 57-56 in the game's final minute.
"Nothing builds team like that kind of environment," Butler coach Brad Stevens said in a release. "Playing in that, just for one another. I really liked it."
After a pair of free throws by GW's Joe McDonald with 44 seconds left, Butler (20-4, 7-2) went to freshman Kellen Dunham on the left side. Dunham drove baseline and was fouled with 23 seconds on the clock. He converted both foul shots to Butler ahead 59-56. George Washington worked to get to contested looks at a 3-pointer, but neither came close. A third long-range attempt came after time expired and the Bulldogs escaped with their conference road win of the year.
The victory lifted Butler to 20-4 overall, marking the program's eighth consecutive season with at least 20 wins.
Senior Rotnei Clarke totaled 14 points and six rebounds with four assists and three steals. Sophomore Roosevelt Jones, who injured his shoulder earlier in the week against St. Bonaventure, scored 12 points. Ten of his dozen came in the first half.
"It was a big time win," Stevens said. "I'm really proud of our guys. Sometimes it's hard when things go against you and you feel like the whole world is caving in around you. To find a way to win that game, and for Kellen to make that play on the drive, it was a huge win for us. We're really excited and we'll move forward."
Isaiah Armwood, a transfer from Villanova and GW's leading scorer, led the Colonials with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Bulldogs hounded George Washington into .279 shooting from the floor and 1-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc.
The Bulldogs are in first place in the league and will host Charlotte on Wednesday at 7 p.m.